There might never be a book that will properly encapsulate the Covid-19 pandemic; from the people’s fear to their resilience, the coming together and the tearing apart of our world. This last year has felt so full of emotion and activity while most people have been forced to sit at home and do nothing. And that’s a hard feeling to cram in to 300 pages or less. But if any book has gotten close its Crisis Zone.
The newest addition to the Megg, Mogg & Owl series, Crisis Zone, came about from the need to bring some light to the suffering last year. Simon Hanselmann started posting the webcomic to Instagram throughout lockdown to let fans of his work have something free and fun to look forward to. Soon enough it became a much-needed reprieve not just for veteran Hanselmann fans but for the masses who now had an abundance of time on their hands and the essential workers looking for a distraction from their stress-filled days.
Those sat behind their keyboards awaiting updates saw themselves mirrored in Megg’s worryingly hedonistic deep-dive into digital escapism. The metamorphosis of timid Owl into a take-charge butterfly was the lockdown glow-up everyone was hearing talk about and Mogg spoke to the very real fears that everyone had to get used to having. Anxiety doesn’t cut it in a world beset by plague. Stuck indoors and ruminating on the world’s health, both physical and moral, led to many of us succumbing to full blown paranoia. And Hanselmann captured it all.
Megg, Mogg, Owl and Werewolf Jones have always been a part of a stoner-comedy with heart but the revolutionary last year we had has made their battles with self-worth, mental health and isolation only more sentient. While MegaHex and One More Year were amazing books, filled with powerful dialogue and affecting imagery in their own right, it is Crisis Zone that I will be suggesting to everyone from here on out. This is a must-read book for absolutely everyone, whether you’re a fan of graphic novels or have ever felt unstuck from life. You’re going to find something to celebrate, and commiserate with, in this book.
Hanselman was once quoted saying: “I hate twee art. Life is not nice” and that rings true here as in all of his work. As a gender-norm smashing renegade both in his personal life – he has his own collection of ill-advised stories that he draws from for his work – and in his artistry, Hanselmann has created a world that encapsulates his views of society and compliments the world around him without sugarcoating it. The reason these books have spoken so well to the public in the past is because he has his finger on the pulse of humanity and this work shows all the signs of his consistent emotional intelligence and more.
“Astoundingly well-crafted and punishingly heartfelt.” — Vulture
“Hanselmann is one of the most gifted cartoonists alive.” — The A.V. Club
“Hanselmann proves the perfect author to capture American life in late 2020. His new volume escalates the depravity at a relentless pace and delivers both laugh-out-loud gags and genuine pathos.” — Library Journal (Starred Review)
“This unhinged Instagram comic perfectly captures the horrors of 2020.” — Input Magazine
Crisis Zone by Simon Hanselmann is published 19th August by Fantagraphics
(9781683964445, p/b, £25.99)